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COMMENTS ON A COMMENTARY 

[Professor H. Logeman's studies in the text of Peer Gynt, carried on for 
several years, appeared during the sununer under the title: A Commentary, 
critical and explanatory, on the Norwegian text of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt, its 
language, literary associations and folk-lore. It is printed at The Hague; the 
publisher is Martinus Nijhoff. It is a book of 484 pages. The work is of the 
greatest importance and a real contribution to the study of Ibsen's difficult 
drama.] 

The following notes deal with pp. 18-80 of the Commentary 
before us. The first 17 pages are not here dealt with since they are 
discussed in connection with a review of the book in The Journal 
of Englisk and Germanic Philology, Jan. 1918. 

For slikt et nemme, line 229, Archer's word 'headpiece' will 
do, but nemme, dialectal name, is more abstract, about the same 
as 'aptness.' One says it of a child that is quick to apprehend, 
apt at learning. Of a grown-up one no longer uses it, hence 
not 'gift' or 'talent.' 

The word rukken is made to rime, line 374, with bukken, 
line 377. This rime is in reality not so utterly to be condemned 
as Com.' would do, when he says: "it is bad enough as the latter 
word is pronounced bokken. " For the benefit of the foreign 
reader it may be said that the o in the writing bokken is intended 
to be closed, very nearly the u in 'pulling.' It is first to be noted, 
that in dialectal pronunciation the u of rukken too (cp. drukken) 
would be pronounced a closed o, and Peer may perhaps be allowed 
to follow his local usage. In the next place it must be remembered, 
however, that, in reading, the u in bukken and in words of that class 
was not always, as now, pronounced with an open u, that is with 
a closed o, but with the pure u. As recently as the time of the 
writing of Peer Gynt this pronunciation was common, and many 
old people still pronounce so when they read, even though 
they always say bokken (that is bukken) when they speak. Now, 
of course, this only makes the rime allowable as a written rime, to 
be read, and not as a rime spoken by Peer; consequently from the 
point of view of Peer's speaking the lines we should, perhaps, have 
to pronounce rokken: bokken. 

' Com. = commentator, Com. = commentary. 



8 



When Peer has put his mother on the mill-roof he warns her: 
ikke spark og spsend med benene, . . . du kan dratte 
ned. This verb dratte is, to be sure, not popular Norwegian, but 
often employed in literature and Riksmaal. So there is in reaUty no 
reason why Ibsen should have avoided it as a Danicism and used 
the thoroughly Norwegian datte. But there is a very excellent reason 
why he does use dratte and not dcette. The latter means simply 'fall' 
or 'drop'; it is semantically a simplex.^ But dratte conveys the 
idea of suddenness in addition to that of descent or falling. Con- 
sequently Peer does not say to his mother: "take care, be quiet, 
or you might fall down," but he says: "take care, be quiet, or 
you might topple down," — the humor of which is instantaneous. 
It is merely another instance of always the right word, no purism 
here. Ibsen had no patience with the hyperpuristic language 
'strivers.' There were times, and many, when he needed these 
naturaUzed words, and if he needed them he would use them. 

Com. evidently looks upon signe of line 437 (Signe reisen 
Bless your passing) as the infinitive, which is strange, correspond- 
ing, as the word does here, exactly to the Enghsh. No auxiliary is 
to be understood, but signe is the optative (full form, Gud signe 
etc., as 'God bless' etc.). The word is common enough in popular 
and colloquial usage in just such cases as are illustrated in Aasen's 
Norsk Ordbog (For^get udgave, 1873, p. 649). A little farther 
down Com. mistakenly regards the change from the form Engel- 
land to Engeland in lines 498 and 499 as a change from the old 
name-form of the romances to the modern one. So, too. Archer, 
when he says: "Engelland — Engeland corresponds to Norroway: 
Norway." But the modern Norwegian name for 'England' is 
England; the form Engeland is also the romantic form with its 
-e-. Hence the change made was merely an orthographic 
one, and the "dim country of romance" is still there, not the 
modern prose form England. 

The Com. frequently refers to Danish usage and Danish forms; 
there is in the notes entirely too much reference to Peer Gynt's 
departures from good Danish. An example in point is the note to 
1. 523, Peer's words: jeg er like sael. Why not have explained 

^Or, at any rate, usually a simplex. 



here that this is a common Norwegian idiom meaning: 'I don't 
care, it's all one to me, or it doesn't matter to me,' etc? Instead 
however. Com. has the remark "this expression sounds strange in 
Danish ears, where seel, 'happy,' 'pleased,' is obsolete and sounds 
Norwegian." One would think that Ibsen's chief regard was 
for Danish usage and that he wrote primarily for a Danish public. 
Of course Ibsen did no such thing. He wrote for a Norwegian 
public and used its Riksmaal. And particularly Peer Gynt is 
full of words and forms from the lower levels of speech, some of 
which had never been used before in literature. We may, perhaps, 
say that Peer speaks as Peer would in real life, except that his 
speech had been normalized according to Riksmaal forms. The 
point of view should not be the socalled Dano-Norwegian, a name 
which it would be well to have discarded, but should be the present 
living speech of Norway, — the Riksmaal and the local vernaculars. 
Coming back to a matter of translation, I have always thought 
that Archer's 'galloping death' was peculiar and a rather un- 
satisfactory rendering of Peer's piskende dod in line 535. Loge- 
man deals somewhat at length with this in a note that is a distinct 
contribution; it is one of the many which reveals the extensive 
study that the writer has given to the drama and its language. 
Now words of this type, present participles in form, are not parti- 
cipial in function, nor is the case before us. They are in Norwe- 
gian usually strengthening adverbs, and piskende d^d, therefore, 
is somewhat unusual, for d^d must be taken as a noun. Some 
of these words in -ende are of course also adjectives; in fact those 
that are of participial origin are adjectives first before they become 
adverbs, though these are relatively few in number now, whereas 
as adverbs they form a distinct and in the dialects a rather exten- 
sive class. Here belongs also piskende, which I cannot imagine 
used as an adjective in any other combination than the one in 
Peer Gynt. Piskende seems alway to be used with d^d, but its 
form is most often, perhaps, not participial, a fact that Com. 
sufficiently illustrates. The etymology that Com. offers is, I 
believe, correct; cp. beiske daue, common dialectal form. Probably 
the form with -ende, therefore, is relatively recent; and it is 
at any rate a more or less local form (local east Norwegian). 



lO 



The error in Archer's translation is that it gives the word adjectival 
force, unless Archer intends 'galloping death' as a whole to be 
taken as a mere asseveration corresponding to piskende d^d, but 
the former has the participial adjective, galloping, and piskende 
is not a participle.' The latter means 'Zounds,' 'the deuce' 'by 
Jove' or some such expression. Com. would render 'God's death, 
which is too strong, or the German Tod und Teufel, or zum Henker, 
as perhaps the nearest approach. 

The many differences in punctuation as between the rough 
draft, the final copy, and later editions are illustrated in such a case 
as line 567. Such changes as come from Ibsen himself may of 
course have a special importance, and deserve to be taken account 
of by the reader. The line in question is in the Com.: Ikvseld? 
Er du f ra sans og samling ? But in the later editions we have 
here a period after sanding; in this they agree with the original 
draft. But Logeman notes that R, Ibsen's Ms. in its final shape, 
has: Ikvseld ? Er du f ra sans og samling ! Then what is the 
reason for the change to the period in the editions (so Minde- 
utgave, V, and Samlede Vcerker, V)? Least satisfactory is the punc- 
tuation with a question mark. Professor Storm calls this kind 
of exclamation a sp^rgende udraab, that is an 'interrogative 
exclamation.' Now the instance in question is primarily an 
exclamation, as any sp^rgende udraab is which requires no answer. 
If it requires an answer the sp^rgende udraab becomes primarily 
a question. Here the question: Ikvaeld? is followed by an exclama- 
tion which might as well have been worded: du er da rentfra sans 
og samling. 

Anent the comments on the somewhat unusual idiom in line 
580: saa skal du vel 'stikke paa kruset,' 'help one self,' par- 
take of,' I shall call attention to an occurrence of the expression 
in Tegner's Fritiofs saga, canto II, stanza 2: 

En sed den gamle hade: 

han jamt i botten drack, 

och intet ord han sade, 

blott hornet in han stack. 

'The form must have arisen in the following way: Gtidsbeiske {=biUre) 
dfid, which was pronounced Guss peiske d^>peiske d^>peiskende d^. 



II 



Such an instance illustrates the origin of the idiom itself. 
Cp., in Ibsen's Vildanden, Werle's: Stik dog paa glassene, mine 
herrer. For the development of the unusual meaning 'to help 
one self' of something, cp. the dialectal-coUoquial use of stikke, 
'put out,' 'thrust out,' and the EngUsh use of 'send' and 'fork out.' 

From Com. 586 it would seem that the word salmebog is taken 
as Archer's translation, 'psalmbook.' A foot-note reads: the 
book meant, as Dr. Western tells me, is likely to be a hymnbook 
rather than a psalmbook, and this the word salmebog notwithstand- 
ing, which Dr. Western thinks is 'hardly correct.' But in Nor- 
wegian a salme is a 'hymn,' and a salmebog is a 'hymnbook'; and 
of course it was a hymnbook that Solveig carried. Are Dr. West- 
ern's words correctly quoted, or has something dropped out of 
the sentence? As to konster in hne 622, this is neither older Danish 
konst, as Com. suggests (and Dr. Western is quoted as rather 
thinking so also), nor is it a Sveacism. It is merely the popular 
Norwegian konst, 'trick,' plur. konster, 'tricks' ('feat,' 'feats'). The 
word is especially common in the Telemarken dialect (Skien, 
Ibsen's birthplace, lies in southern Telemarken). The Telemarken 
form of the sentence in question — Paa Londe (=Lunde) viste du a 
h^slag (or haaslag) konstirdu konde (o in all three cases — fl). Also 
in 675 an erroneous translation is not corrected in Com. on Peer's 
words to Ingrid: vser ikke tvaer. Tvcrt means 'cross,' 'stubborn,' 
'contrary'; the last fits exactly here (Archer has 'wayward'). It 
may be noted that tvcer here rimes with hver, hence has a long 
vowel. It is in this case, therefore, not the Nw. dial, tvar (which 
is pronounced tvmrr), but either the Danish tvar, or the local east 
Norwegian tmr that Ibsen uses. 

Ingrid's words to Peer: nu var du styg, line 701, may be taken 
as the translations quoted have done: Archer, "Now you were 
grim," and German and French in the same way. But with the 
Com. I am rather incUned to take it as the characteristic Norwegian 
use of the past var for the present er, used commonly in remarking on 
the weather of the day, the remark applying as well to the weather 
at the time of making the remark as during the part of the day that 
has passed, and also used in characterizing an act or a word as kind, 
mean, etc. Now when Peer threatens Solveig with certain things 



12 



that he could do and might do, if he would, in case she does not 
dance with him, we can imagine that he emphasizes it in part also 
by some expression or gesture. And so Solveig might say: 'how 
ugly you were then." But that which calls forth her remark is 
rather his whole bearing, his threat and the fact of his threatening, 
his having been so 'ugly' as to threaten. What she says, therefore, 
is 'how unkind you can be,' 'how ugly you can be,' 'it is horrible 
of you to say such things,' or 'it is ugly of you to be that way.' 

Regarding the smith's act of spitting in his hands, as he is 
preparing to 'fix' Peer, I do not beheve, as does Com., that there 
is "more than meets the eye" in the act. It is merely the smith's 
usual way of going about a job, whether it is some other more 
than usually difficult one in the regular labor of the day, or the 
task before him: — and we can have no doubt that if he got after 
Peer, he was going to do a thorough job of it. So the wood-cutter, 
for the practical reason that the axe will stick better, so any 
other laborer when engaged in some hard work, and so the 
fighter when he goes into the bout. However, in the other cases 
cited the act is undoubtedly an instance of a survival.* 

The word yr, line 762, (Ingrid: trostlos var jeg. Peer: Jeg 
var yr) is by Com. classed as Swedish in form and meaning, in 
which view he also quotes Storm. Western, however, accepting 
the Swedish form of yr, considers it purely Norwegian in meaning, 
namely 'giddy, especially from drink,' and he compares with a later 
occurrence in the play, where yr rimes with g/Vr. Thus it appears 
the word is purely Norwegian, for it is to be noted that also in the 
latter Ibsen writes it with a y. The precise meaning in Ibsen's 
use of it is best seen from its use in the second instance. Aase 
says to Peer: kasre gutten min, du var jo drukken; da ved 
en ei selv hvad en gjor, og saa havde du redet paa 
bukken, det var rimeligt nok du var yr (that is, therefore, 

*In the comment on line 717 Aase og jeg to the reference at the end 
{Publications of the Society for the Advancement of Sc. Study, I), should have 
been added one to Vol. Ill, p. 302, where the use in question was discussed and 
illustrated by Logeman with examples from Holberg and elsewhere. The 
Com. should also have mentioned the discussion of this point by Olson and 
Mauritzson, following the reading of Logeman's paper at the meeting of the 
Society (see Vol. I as referred to above). 



13 

'not yourself , unaccountable for what you did, not in full control of 
your senses, dazed')- And in line 762, it is the same occasion that 
Peer speaks of when he says he was yr. In this meaning the word is 
used in dialects from all parts of Norway; and, as Dr. Western 
notes, it has the Norwegian pronunciation in one of Ibsen's uses. 
But Aasen, Norsk Ordbok, gives both ^r and yr as Norwegian, and 
Ibsen writes yr even when the rime requires the pronunciation 
^r. Now it must be emphasized that the Norwegian dialectal 
pronunciation is in western Norway more often yr (with an open 
y) than it is ^r; the latter is of course the form in eastern 
Norway. As regards Archer's 'frantic,' that will hardly do; 
possibly this was suggested by the Swedish word yr, which most 
often means 'giddy, wild', as in Fdnrik Stdl, stanza 6; jag var sd 
yr,jag var sa ung, 'I was giddy, I was young. '^ 

In regard to the weak form of the adjective used without 
the prepositive article it seems to me that Com. to 871 does not 
distinguish between two kinds of cases which should be kept apart. 
One of these kinds of cases has the sanction of well-nigh universal 
Norwegian usage, which in a measure at least goes back to Old 
Norse times. The other kind of cases is in the nature of a recent 
extension of the construction in question; I must assume that 
it is these that Western has had in mind when he characterizes 
the construction as having grown alarmingly of late; and I must 
assume also that Logeman too meant only these when he used 
the words "already become common." The legitimate use of 
the construction in question is represented by such cases as (eldste 
guUen, travle onnen, hele dagen, halve aaret, etc. Surely these 
are regular, and we should have objected to the use of the 
prepositive article here rather than to its absence. The case is 
somewhat different with glohedejernet, and with such a superlative 
construction as h^iesie vcelven, line 923, and strideste elven, in 924. 
Com. seems to assume that in these cases the construction det 
glohede jern has been replaced by glohede jernet, that is: that the 
'correct' rfe^+wk.adj.+noun has been replaced by the wk. 
adj.+def. noun; however, such is, of course, not at all the case. 
Rather the latter is the outgrowth of the def. art.+wk. adj.+def. 
noun, by the disappearance of the first article on the analogy of 
such older cases as halve dagen, aldste gutten, etc. 

' I. e., the second poem of Runeberg's PSnrik Stdls Sagner. 



14 

I have examined so far the first 80 pages of the Commentary, 
covering Act I and 10 pages of Act II. If many passages or 
words have been found which in the writer's opinion require a 
different explanation from that of the Com., be it said that these form 
a relatively small proportion of the vast body of critical material, 
in the main excellent, which the author offers to readers of Peer 
Gynt. The majority of them are of the greatest value to the 
student, especially to him who must use translations; on every 
page almost there is something that is a real contribution. The 
latter is true especially on the literary side. Students of Ibsen 
will be grateful for this new aid; doubly grateful that it was not 
given up, but brought to completion now, in spite of the difficult 
circumstances under which it was written and printed in war- 
ridden Belgium. 

George T. Flom. 

November 2, 1917.